DIY-U: Chapter 1: History


Semi-random notes. Not fully baked...

If we all want something better than what we have/had for our children, this is akin to unrestricted growth. At some point, we need to plateau (or descend again, as population continues to increase...) - 1% higher ed enrolment in the US in the 1800s, up to nearly everyone attending some form of higher ed now...

"Professionalization" of occupations - formation of boards and bureaucracies to determine who is "qualified" to practice an occupation - may be a nice segue from straight institution-granted accreditation. Guilds? Apprenticeships? How do these concepts adapt from the trades to more "white collar" academic subjects?

The way she describes the history of higher education institutions in the US (and, I'm assuming, in other Western countries) sounds an awful lot like a real estate bubble. Speculators grab some land, hype it, sell it, then need to find more land and hype (manipulate media to artificially foster need...) that even more to keep buyers coming. Repeat until mortgage crisis...

IS (subsidized) access to higher education a right? (says the guy in the middle of a subsidized graduate degree program...) I need to unpack this a bit. I totally see the value of higher ed, but is it a right? We can agree that K12 education is a right. If access to higher ed. is a right, then we need to find/make a way to get to 100% enrolment and 100% graduation. If it's not, then we need to figure out what the real need is, and adjust our resources and demands accordingly.

"Too often they scaled up by watering down, depending increasingly on large lecture courses and part-time instructors." - this is the reality of modern universities as well. BUT, how would this look in a DIY model? Scaling classes up to what we've seen in Massively Open Courses - with hundreds or thousands of participants - could water things down even further. Or reverse the process? Would universal access to whatever becomes of education fix the dumbing-down?

If the problem with "lowering the bar" to admission (by state universities and community colleges as part of the Massive Expansion of Higher Education), how will this look in a DIY model where there may be no bars at all? With no barriers to entry, we obviously need to rethink how to frame an "education" in a way that we all understand. Is it just "I read a bunch of websites, and did some stuff, and then earned some form of accreditation" or is it something else?

Gatekeeping serves an important role when resources are limited. It also serves to raise the perceived reputation of an institution. With no gatekeeping, what happens? Everybody gets a Harvard education? It then becomes meaningless. Similarly for higher ed. in general. If everyone has degrees and diplomas, will we need to create some new higher goal for elite academic performers? Super degrees?

Students as resigned pragmatists? Not sure I see that, but if so, how does this affect things? Shifting to DIY-U would need some pretty radicalized students, balanced with pragmatism. How to foster that?

Education as a means to get power - power is only effective when there is a differential or gradient. When you have more than others. What happens if we blow up the institutions and shift to DIY-U? Are the gradients and differentials removed? I doubt it. But, how are they reconstructed?


See Also